I think this gives us an idea to what the Lord hears each Sunday as his people from all over the earth gather to worship him. O what a day that is going to be when we, the church, will see, taste, feel, hear, smell, and know the full beauty of the Lord – together. Worship the Risen Lord as you listen to this one young man fill up the full measure of sound with his own voice. Think: if this is what one voice can do, what mosaic of beauty is God going to reveal one day with all of your moments of “need” finally satisfied in him? The heavens will not contain your joy in Christ!
Monthly Archives: September 2013
My Prayer: “Thank God I’m not a Praying Mantis”
Yesterday I saw and observed one of the most fascinating insects that the Lord made: a praying mantis. No need to get all scientific about it – just watch one and be astounded at this amazing creature. But, I sure am glad that I’m not one . . .
War of Words
Below is a lesson from Paul Tripp’s outstanding book, “War of Words.” I return to it now and then to evaluate myself before I speak. Enjoy!
Words Have Significance
Words have significance, power and importance because the first person who ever spoke words was God. It is heart-stopping that every word that we have ever spoken will be judged by the one who spoke first. Therefore, all the talk in the world is related to God – either our words will bring God glory or will bring his just condemnation, because, our words are audible expressions of our hearts.
Before Sin, there was no communication struggle, no war of words. No arguments, no lies, no words of hatred, impatience, or retaliation. There was no yelling, no cursing, no condemnation, and no self-flattery. No words of self-defense, arrogance, envy, or fault-finding were ever uttered before sin. But that beautiful world of words is long gone.
“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Matthew 15:18).
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23).
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:35-37).
Jesus is saying that before any sinful action there is a word that is spoken from the heart. Here are some questions for Self-Examination of our Heart by listening to our Words:
1. Does your talk with others lead to biblical problem solving?
2. Does your talk have a “stand together” or a “me against you” posture?
3. Do your words encourage others to be open and honest about their thoughts and feelings?
4. Are you approachable and teachable or defensive and self-protective when talking with others?
5. Is your communication healthy in the principal relationships in your life? Parent-child, husband-wife, extended family, sibling relationships, employer-employee, friend-friend, body of Christ, neighbor-neighbor.
6. Does your talk encourage faith and personal spiritual growth in those around you?
7. Do you talk with others to develop relationships with them, or do you only talk to solve problems during times of trouble?
8. Do you speak humble and honest words of confession when you sin and words of sincere forgiveness when others sin against you?
9. Do your words reflect a willingness to serve others or a demand that they serve you?
10. As you face the struggles of talk, do you do so with recognition of the gospel – God’s forgiveness, his enabling grace, and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit?
What is a Hypocrite?
A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be someone else, they are not true to their real self. This is why the only people who Jesus ever labeled as hypocrite were the religious pharisees (Matt. 23:13-36). A hypocrite is not someone who goes to church and yet struggles with indwelling sin, AS LONG AS that person admits that they struggle with indwelling sin. Which is not what the pharisees did. They went to church and denied that they sinned. They lived a lie about their true self.
When someone outside the church points the finger at church-going Christians and justifies their hatred by invoking the, “they’re just a bunch of hypocrites” accusation, therefore excusing their obligation to turn to God, it is actually that person who is the true hypocrite. Why? Because they live in denial of their sin. I repeat: a hypocrite is not a Christian who sins, but rather, it is either a professing Christian who lives in denial of actual sin or a Christ-rejector who also lives in denial of sin. The reason why I point out the professing Christian as a hypocrite is because there really is no such thing as a sin-denying Christian anymore than there is a water-denying fish. John says,
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:9).
“The word hypocrisy is a Greek word that means “play-acting”, and was a technical term for a stage actor and was not considered an appropriate role for a public figure. In Athens in the 4th century BC, for example, the great orator Demosthenes ridiculed his rival Aeschines, who had been a successful actor before taking up politics, as a hypocrites whose skill at impersonating characters on stage made him an untrustworthy politician.”
In other words, you can’t say that you are a true lover of Jesus while you deny that you have sin in your heart. There is only one who was ever sinless.
Therefore, the person who is truly fraudulent, deceptive, a counterfeit, and beguiling, is the person who pretends to appear sinless. There are many ways of doing this: the performance of religious works, the lack of repentance, shifting blame, self-justification, deflecting the attention away from self, stone-walling accountability and inspection of behavior, and of course the oldest method on the book, lying.
So I have three words of counsel:
1. If you say you are a lover of Jesus Christ, then don’t play the hypocrite by living in denial of personal sin. Agree with what the Spirit says to your heart through the Scriptures about your sin so that you can boast in the forgiveness at the cross. The true Christian Life is one that hides in the cross of Christ by repenting of the very sins that Jesus died for. Lack of repentance of sin is evidence that you do not believe that Jesus died for your sins.
2. If you do not love Jesus Christ, it’s because you love something else – You. But what you love about you is the false view of you. You think that you are good enough to pass the judgment bar because you think that either you don’t sin all that badly or that you perform enough good works to counter-balance and off-set your wickedness. But that too is sinful, to think that your good works are good enough to do what Christ came to do. So you are only piling up more and more sin as you keep pointing the finger at the church.
3. If you are in this later category, Jesus pleads with you to take your eyes off others, look at him, and see how wonderful it would be to be loved by someone who knows everything about you, who can heal the brokenness in your soul and restore true joy and peace. Why? Because one day that is the person you are going to see and there will be no one else to point at then. Either you will stand before him clothed in his righteous garments or you will stand exposed and naked with all of your hypocrisy unveiled and seen for what it truly was – a life of pretty play-acting on the stage of humanity while inside of you was a black cauldron of evil desires.
Turn quickly to Christ in faith for the forgiveness of sins, trust in his atonement for your sins on the cross, believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and you will be saved from what is coming upon you. Hurry! Don’t delay . . . before you are called into the Divine Courtroom without Jesus Christ as your only defense.
“Not In Me,” confesses the Pharisee.
The authors of this song imagines the pharisee who said, “I thank God that I am not like this tax collector . . . I do this, and I don’t do that, and I, I, I, I,” – awakens to his prideful hope in self-righteousness and turns to the finished work of Christ for his righteousness. I look forward to worshiping our Lord this Sunday with this new song. Lyrics and credits below.
Not in Me
No list of sins I have not done,
No list of virtues I pursue,
No list of those I am not like,
Can earn myself a place with You.
O God! Be merciful to me—
I am a sinner through and through!
My only hope of righteousness
Is not in me, but only You.
No humble dress, no fervent prayer,
No lifted hands, no tearful song,
No recitation of the truth
Can justify a single wrong.
My righteousness is Jesus’ life,
My debt was paid by Jesus’ death,
My weary load was borne by Him
And he alone can give me rest.
No separation from the world,
No work I do, no gift I give,
Can cleanse my conscience, cleanse my hands;
I cannot cause my soul to live.
But Jesus died and rose again—
The pow’r of death is overthrown!
My God is merciful to me
And merciful in Christ alone.
My righteousness is Jesus’ life,
My debt was paid by Jesus’ death,
My weary load was borne by Him
And he alone can give me rest,
And he alone can give me rest.
By Eric Schumacher & David L. Ward
© 2012 ThousandTongues.org
The Gospel is not Right Wing or Left Wing
“The Gospel is not Right Wing or Left Wing.” That’s John Piper’s tag-line on page 84 of his eye-opening book, “Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian.” I have read nearly every book that Piper has written but this one truly breaks the mold. If you think that you do not have racist tendencies in your heart, think again; more than you might realize. And if you think that you have a grasp on racism in this country, well . . . he took me to school. His point: any area in your heart and life that you and I are a racist, is an area of sin that has yet to be conquered and changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Piper tells the story of his childhood in a racist baptist church in South Carolina and racism’s effect upon his heart. What follows is a kind of reading that I have not read anywhere in anything. I cannot recommend this book too strongly. Subjects and topics: Bill Cosby, Juan Williams, Civil Rights, Affirmative Action, Anti-Intellectualism, The Audacity of Hope, Martin Luther King, Jr.,Personal Responsibility and Structural Change, Inter-racial marriage, racial diversity, racial harmony, racial prejudice, and the fact that we all came from one man and one woman – the same parents, and the fact that Jesus Christ married a bride who was not of his race, and the fact that the gospel does not take sides in the controversy of racism, and the glorious truth that the gospel accomplishes what is needed, these and many more points of discussion is what makes this book one of Piper’s best.
In his chapter, “Personal Responsibility [advocate Bill Cosby] and Systemic Intervention [advocate Juan Williams],” Piper comes to the conclusion that both sides have merit to be put into action but neither is the full solution to the astounding racism in our hearts, in our churches, in our world, and especially here in America. So what is the solution and how do we apply it? I leave you with a trailer for the book and some of his hope-filled remarks as he glories in the gospel. But buy the book!
“The gospel is not an ideology. It does not come in as one idea alongside some others and make its contribution. The good news that God sent his Son Jesus into the world to die in the place of sinners, and bear their punishment, and become their prefect righteousness, and absorb the wrath of God, and set us right with him through faith alone, and rise from the dead triumphant over every foe – that gospel does not come as an ideology but as supernatural power . . . that creates new people.” pg. 83
“The gospel is not a heavenly demand of what we must do to be saved; it is a heavenly declaration of what God has done to save us. The added good news is that we cannot earn what he has done for us but only receive it as a gift. And even this receiving – this trust – is a gift of God. It is God’s grace and God’s power from start to finish. This is why it is in a class by itself. It does not fit alongside any politics or ideology or philosophy or culture.” pg. 84
“Jesus did not come into the world to endorse anybody’s platform. He doesn’t fit in. He created the world. He holds it in being by his powerful word. He will return someday to judge the living and the dead. And he came the first time to die so that left-wing activists and right-wing talk-show hosts would be broken in pieces for their sin and put back together by the power of grace. He came so that from that day on Jesus himself would be the supreme treasure and authority in our lives. He came so that we would become radically devoted to the glory of God. He came so that the only kind of racial diversity and racial harmony we would pursue is Jesus-exalting, God-glorifying, and gospel-formed.” pg. 85
The Joy of My Soul in the Sovereign Unseen Hand of God
In the brief time that my parents lived in Ashland, Ohio from 1963-69, they met J. B. and Barb Spencer and their three children, a bluegrass gospel singing family. I met the Spencers for the first time in 1974 at Calvary Baptist Church, where my dad was preaching. Dad had invited them down to sing on Sunday. J. B. wrote a song called “Unseen Hand.” I can still hear Mrs. Spencer singing the verses and her husband and children joining her on the chorus. Here are the original lyrics:
There is an unseen Hand to me
That leads through ways I cannot see.
While going through this world of woe
His Hand still leads me as I go.
I’m trusting to the Unseen Hand
That guides me through this weary land.
And some sweet day I’ll reach that strand
Still guided by the Unseen Hand.
His hand has led through shadows drear
And while it leads I have no fear.
I know twill lead me to that home
Where sin nor sorrow ere can come.
I long to see my Savior’s face
And sing the story saved by grace.
And there upon that golden strand
I’ll praise him for his guiding hand.
I can’t read those words and restrain the emotion that fills my heart over what is true about my God – He is graciously governing my whole life as he did his own sons life. I do not feel paralyzed or threatened by this, but rather, I say and feel with David,
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you”
What truth about God would give rise to such joyful expression of confidence?
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them” (vss. 13-16).
The result of such profound insights about God did not fill David with either bitterness or indifference, which is often what happens when we come face-to-face with a Sovereign God. We’re not sure if we can trust him, and since we cannot see the full measure of his handiwork all at once, we question the artist’s wisdom. It is not sinful or uncommon to pray for relief and ask why, Jesus did. But like Jesus, we also submit to him who exalted the suffering servant and proved that the cross “is the wisdom and power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24, 25).
The goal of all theology (the study of God), is doxology (joyful praise to God). My trust is in the LORD – the Maker of heaven and earth. I don’t understand very much about God but O how I enjoy Him. Look to Christ and see the Wisdom of God. Look at Christ’s suffering and see the love and justice of God. Look to Christ and see the Righteousness of God. Look to Christ and see that God will one day, because it is written in his book, lead you in the way that is everlasting. All my joy and praise flows to the God whose hand is wonderfully and painfully bringing to pass all my days before there were any.
Below is a beautiful rendition of the song with slight word changes. May you be encouraged today!
What Paul Harvey said on April 3, 1965
I hate to see you go – but go you must or you will die.
It’s almost that time of the year that the hummingbirds will be gone. Even now the migration is well into its flight south. I hate to see them go, but if they don’t, they will die. God created the moon and the sun with their respective roles so that their would be seasons upon the earth (Gen. 1:14). These seasons are meant to evoke worship of him who said, “Let us make man in our image.” We were made to worship the triune God who has made hummingbirds and their migration to survive.
If God the Son sustains the world by his power (Hebrews 1:1-3), and not a bird falls to the ground apart from the will of God the Father (Matthew 10:29-30), and our comfort and encouragement comes from God the Holy Spirit who descended from the Father and lit upon the Son like a dove (Luke 3:22; John 14:16), then not only trust God to take care and bring back our fast-flying-friends in the spring, but also trust God to take care of you as he moves things around for his own glory and your ultimate delight.
Farewell and Godspeed. Lord willing, I’ll see you again!
Hope for an Insufferable Drip
Proverbs 30:21, 23 wisely observes, “Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up . . . an unloved woman when she gets a husband.”
In context, the godly sage of humanity is taking notice as the way things normally go, hence, “Proverbs,” not, “Promises,” that a married woman who was unloved in her earlier single life might turn out to be about as soothing as a drip, drip, drip from a crack in the roof as the rain comes down (Prov. 21:19, 25:24, 27:15-16). Proverbs is about wise norms of life. And one normal and predictable outcome is this: if a little girl is not loved by her daddy and/or her mommy, she just might grow up to be an insufferable drip to her husband, no matter how kind and sacrificial he is for her.
I too have seen this observation. And I too wish I could go back and tidy up some serious miss-steps in not loving my own daughters better. But I can’t. I am grateful for the grace to have loved my little girls with what grace God gave me. But those days are now gone and I can’t get them back. So, I want to say something to moms and dads whose daughters are still home, and to all of you present insufferable drips who are married and give all of you some guidance and hope.
To moms and dads:
1. Love your daughters or you might hear your future son-in-laws plead, “Why didn’t you warn me?! She’s impossible to live with – nothing I do ever makes her happy.” You don’t want to hear that.
2. Love your daughters or they might get married, have children, and turn your grandchildren into walking migraines. You don’t want more headaches do you?
3. Love your daughters or they might turn out to be a little more unloving to you as you were to them. Sin always picks up momentum as the years go by – reread Romans chapter one. You don’t want that to happen either.
4. Repent right now of any unkind, divisive, belittling, condescending, name-calling, evil-motive impugning, hair-pulling, face-slapping, foul-mouthed, dismissive, caricature-labeling spirit that you know The Spirit is calling you out on. Then go quickly and ask forgiveness from your daughter and be ready to get in return what you dished out. It will hurt – but you must do this.
5. Believe that Christ can heal what you have broken in your daughters. If you have not loved them with the Love of Christ (which includes steady and faithful biblical discipline to train their minds and hearts) then what you have broken is their natural desire to trust a man to surrender his life for her – this especially, in my understanding of scripture, falls on the dad. An unloved little girl by her daddy grows up with her fists up and understandably so. But she cannot deny the deep hunger to be loved by a man. So when she gets her man, she can’t help but be the kind of person that she’s been trained to be – a leaky roof. So what do you do? Pray that God will break in on her brokenness – he does it all the time. On this point, I defer to a teacher of women who is a hero of the faith for me – Jani Ortlund.
Jani Ortlund, a speaker for True Woman, recently posted these words and comments from women who attended a marriage conference that she and her husband Ray spoke at while in Asia:
“Ray and I recently made a journey to a large country in Asia in which we have served before. We were asked to minister to persecuted pastors and their wives on marriage and family issues. Their invitation said, in part, “We are first generation Christians, and we don’t know what it looks like to build a Christian marriage or raise our children as Christians. Please come help us.”
Jani then posted these comments from married women who attended the conference:
“God has enlightened my eyes that the gospel—not a list of skills—is the only hope for my marriage. This is a totally new knowledge about marriage. I have been delivered from the valley of hopelessness. In the past I have lived in conflict and despair, but now I have hope! I want to give my husband respect as my worship to God.”
“I see now that the gospel is the cure for us. I have been Mrs. Law to my husband and children. God gives life to the dead. Now I feel God’s love abundantly. I repent of my angry words.”
“Sometimes friends would ask me, ‘Are you really born again?’ This week I realized I was living in law and self-centeredness. Many times I used God’s Word to correct my husband. I was so sad when I came. But God has taken my sadness away and given me a happy heart. My husband can even see the difference on my face.”
“I had lost hope. I knew of no good marriages. We almost missed this conference because of hopelessness in our marriage. You gave us the gospel—’How does God treat me?’ That is how we are to treat each other. Now I have hope.”
“For the past ten years I lost my joy and have been walking in darkness. We would have more and more arguments. I was dead; I had no hope. This week the Holy Spirit filled me again. When you taught from Luke 15, I saw that I was the lost sheep, but now the Shepherd has taken me in His arms. Now I am depending on Him.”
“Before I came I was totally closed and cold. I had no feeling, no hope—none. I blamed my husband. Before marriage I had high expectations and then total disappointment. I gave more condemnation than love. But now I realize I had put all my hope in my husband. My love was selfish, not unconditional. This is a new beginning for me. I want to live in the gospel every day.”
“I had never heard that marriage was from the garden of Eden and a platform to show others the gospel. For so many years all people pointed their troubles to us. This week we could share. I was in death’s valley. I even doubted my faith. My spiritual life was dead. God delivered me and now I have hope. These tears are tears of joy, not sorrow.”
Now to hurting insufferable drips, whether single or married:
1. Weep over the fact that your daddy did not love you as he should have. Go ahead – it’s ok. You do not dishonor your father by grieving over his belligerence or indifference toward you.
2. Believe that his inability to love you was probably passed down to him – he couldn’t love you as he ought because he probably was not loved himself. So don’t take it too personal. He would have been just as mean and emotionally distanced to any daughter that he brought into the world. You could not please your daddy because of his emptiness – not your’s.
3. Take a serious and long look at the gospel and know that Christ suffered the consequences of your father’s harsh ways. Which means for you, the suffering ends with the cross. I don’t mean that Christ has forgiven your father if he is still unrepentant, but that Christ’s love for you is more than enough to heal and provide hope for the consequences that you bear in your heart:
Are you Defensive? Christ died to make you feel safe in him. Are you Controlling? Christ died to set you free from fear of oppression. Are you Feisty? Christ died to give you his peace and joy. Are you Loud-Mouthed? Christ died to quiet your lust to be heard – he hears you. Are you Diss-respectful to Men in general and/or to your husband in particular? Christ is a Man and he died, letting you plunge nails into his body so that you can have the grace to respect the man he placed in your life. Come now, show your man a little respect and watch him flourish. If he doesn’t, go get your elders this week and tell on him.
Are you un-appeasable? The reason why you are rarely ever satisfied is because you are an idolator of unrealistic happiness in a sin-cursed world. And you can’t imagine what it would be like to be hurt again and return love. Seems impossible doesn’t it? But this is how Christ loves you every day. Believe and desire that if you could have the love of Christ in your heart, then not only are you satisfied with Christ’s love for you on the cross, but you are also ready to love without certainty of reciprocation. You might love and not get loved back. But that’s why Christ will never leave you. He knows that others will.
4. Surround yourself with godly women who will help you stop the leak in your heart. The reason why the leak is there is because you’re broken too, apart from any unloving mom or dad. Your leak is your’s. And it won’t stop because you keep trying to plug it with something other than Christ. This does not excuse an unloving mom or dad, or even an unloving husband who is no longer your husband; they will have to answer to Christ the Supreme Judge. But for your own welfare, not even the most loving husband or father is enough – you need Jesus. You always needed him. You always wanted him but you didn’t know what you were looking for. Let your hunger and thirst to be loved by a man come to rest in the Risen Christ – who knows all your wild ways, including your annoying drips that are no less a call for, “Please – help me to stop being such a nag to everyone around me, especially my husband.”